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Saturday sports: Australian Open finals; NFL playoffs; Joel Embiid's scoring streak


And now it's time for sports.


SIMON: Aussie rules at the Australian Open, while two top men players prepare to make some kind of history tomorrow. KC vs. Cincy, LA vs. San Fran - whose fans get to pay thousands of dollars for Super Bowl tix? And all eyes on Joel Embiid as he continues his hot streak for the 76ers.

Howard Bryant of Meadowlark Media joins us. Howard, thanks so much for being with us.

HOWARD BRYANT: Good morning, Scott.

SIMON: And let's begin. Ashleigh Barty defeated Danielle Collins. She became the first Australian player to win a singles title there since 1978. That was back in the days when TikTok was just the sound of clock makes.

BRYANT: (Laughter).

SIMON: What did you see in her performance?

BRYANT: Dominance, complete dominance - didn't drop a set throughout the entire tournament and was in complete control - clearly is the best player in the world right now. And it was a great match. Danielle Collins hadn't been to a final. This was her first. And she was completely unafraid - really hung in there with Barty - was up 5-1 in the second set...

SIMON: Yeah.

BRYANT: ...So it really looked like we were going to have one set to decide a champion. And then suddenly Ashleigh Barty just turned it on. And what a moment for Australia. They ended that drought. And then of course, in the doubles, you had Nick Kyrgios and Thanasi Kokkinakis winning the doubles for Australia. So it was a huge night. And, you know, we were talking so much about Naomi Osaka. You've got two of them now. Osaka and Barty have won seven of the last 13 Grand Slam majors.


BRYANT: So you've got - now that Osaka is wonderfully back on tour, you've got two really dominant potential players. This is going to be a really great year. It's going to be great to see those two. But also, the depth on the women's side is just - it's outstanding. There's going to be a lot of good players out there vying for championships.

SIMON: Let me ask you quickly - men's side - no matter who wins, history tomorrow, right?

BRYANT: Well, absolutely - one a little bit more significant than the other. You've got Rafael Nadal trying to break a three-way tie with 20 majors with Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer and also trying to become just the fourth man to win each major twice - huge moment for him. But then again, you've got Daniil Medvedev. And Medvedev won the U.S. Open - beat Novak Djokovic - a few months ago and is trying to be the first person, which is wild, in the open era to win back-to-back slams to start their careers, which is amazing. It's amazing that's never happened before. So - always going to look for a great match. I think that Medvedev is a slight favorite. But you don't bet against the 20-time champion.

SIMON: Let me ask you about the NFL playoffs. Rams vs. San Francisco - 49ers have been trying to trade their quarterback all (laughter) year. He might bring...

BRYANT: Exactly. I mean, Jimmy Garoppolo...

SIMON: ...Them to the Super Bowl now.

BRYANT: ...You're like, what else do I have to do? I can take you to the Super Bowl for the second time. Every time I play, I win. I don't look great, but I win doing it. And so that's been phenomenal. And then of course, on the other hand, you know, they've beaten the Rams twice this year. It's hard to beat a team three times. You've got the - on the other side, you've got the Chiefs. And you've got the Bengals. And that's going to be a great match and all - but wild. The Bengals have been to the AFC Championship twice in their history. Both times they played the 49ers. It could actually happen a third time.

SIMON: Joel Embiid of the 76ers had what he called a bad game against the Lakers the other night because he scored only 26 points.

BRYANT: Yeah. This is a great story, Scott, simply because the 76ers had so many injuries and such, and you've got the Ben Simmons situation looming. No one was thinking a whole lot about...

SIMON: Yeah.

BRYANT: ...The 76ers except what's going to happen to Ben Simmons. And here is Joel Embiid, who is now the frontrunner for the MVP. He's playing a combination of Wilt Chamberlain and Allen Iverson in terms of the records he's breaking. Good story down in Philadelphia, and they are right in contention.

SIMON: Howard Bryant of Meadowlark Media - thanks so much for being with us, my friend.

BRYANT: Oh, my pleasure - thanks, Scott.

SIMON: Talk to you soon.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Scott Simon is one of America's most admired writers and broadcasters. He is the host of Weekend Edition Saturday and is one of the hosts of NPR's morning news podcast Up First. He has reported from all fifty states, five continents, and ten wars, from El Salvador to Sarajevo to Afghanistan and Iraq. His books have chronicled character and characters, in war and peace, sports and art, tragedy and comedy.